A proposal to change how public schools are funded is projected to improve funding of all five school districts in Marion County, at least in the short term, USD 410 Superintendent Steve Noble said Friday.
Gov. Sam Brownback released his funding proposal Dec. 14. The proposal includes an 18.9-percent increase in per-student aide to school districts from $3,780 to $4,492. However, it also eliminates weighted enrollment for needs including transportation and career and technical classes, as well as equalization funding for local taxes in districts with comparatively low property tax bases.
Another important component of the proposal is eliminating the cap on how much school district’s can assess in local property taxes. That would significantly increase how much school districts that are either populous or rich in minerals, oil, or natural gas can spend.
Overall, the proposal would result in a net increase in school funding of between 1 and 2 percent statewide. According to calculations included in the governor’s proposal, USD 410 would see an increase in state funding of $296,475. While that is a significant improvement, the district has cut $1.2 million from its budget in the past three years, Noble said.
“Thank goodness it is not a cut,” he said.
Noble said it appeared Brownback was trying to protect rural schools with his proposal.
“I appreciate this effort, because they paid a lot of attention to equalizing school districts,” Noble said.
Other districts in the county also stand to regain funding if the proposal passes. Marion/Florence USD 408 would receive approximately $266,860 more; Peabody-Burns USD 398, $179,444; Centre USD 397, $169,340; and Goessel USD 411, $144,103.
The possible loss of enrollment weightings for career and technical classes could take away some of the incentives to increase those offerings, something USD 410 has been working on diligently in the past few years, Noble said.
“I hold out hope that they’ll do something about vocational education,” he said.